Stalking the wily teen

Teen-agers can be an elusive species, slipping through dark corners of the house in surly silence, sneaking up on you when you least expect it.

Biologists who study homo sapiens adolescensis tell us that teens' nocturnal habits and avoidance of adult company make them among the most difficult research subjects, second only to Bigfoot.

Many parents go weeks without meaningful interaction with their offspring. These parents have difficulty even confirming that their teen-agers exist. Some must resort to using credit card receipts to prove to the Internal Revenue Service that they're entitled to tax exemptions because teens occupy the household.

You might have teen-agers skulking around your home right now and not even know it. Perhaps you thought your teens had gone off to college. Suddenly, you find evidence that they're still around -- loud music playing in empty rooms, open milk cartons sitting out on kitchen counters -- and you follow these clues to determine that, in fact, your home has been converted into a frat house.

Fortunately, modern science has established a set of protocols for determining whether teens occupy a particular habitat. If you think your home may be infested with teen-agers, check for the following indicators:

--The phone line is always busy.

--The television plays 24 hours a day, even when there's no one in the room to view it, and it's set on channels you'd never, ever watch, such as MTV.

--Groceries disappear from your kitchen in amazing quantities. Teens are particularly keen on sweets and junk food. Sometimes, such treats vanish before you can even get the groceries in from the car. Veteran parents know that if they themselves might eventually want, say, a cookie, they must lock up the Oreos with the liquor.

--Computers run all night, downloading viruses and bad music, and casting their eerie electronic glow throughout the home. Scientists have found that, if a parent catches a teen actually using a computer, the screen instantly goes dark. Suspicious? We think so.

--The refrigerator door is standing open.

--Music constantly emanates from radios, stereos, MP3 players, computers, garages, even showers. Researchers tell us this is a sure sign that teens are present, their version of leaving a trail of bread crumbs. Sometimes, parents will search high and low for the source of apparent whispering, thinking it will give them a glimpse of their teens, only to find unoccupied headphones chattering away.

--Strange-looking people, wearing thrift-store clothes and headphones and many, many tattoos, show up at your door, asking about your teens, intimating that they are "friends." (Greet these strangers with extreme caution. It could be a trap.)

--Piles of dirty laundry, much of it decorated with the logos of rock bands, mysteriously appear, mostly strewn about the floor.

--You find yourself tripping over giant sneakers left scattered about. Or, you notice a foul, locker-room aroma and trace it to such shoes.

--All the settings on your computer, TV, VCR, microwave oven or cell phone have been changed, often in ways that render them unusable.

--You find yourself bankrupted by bills for items you don't remember purchasing.

Any of these clues may be signs of adolescent habitation. If you fear your home has been infested, conduct this test: Set out some food, preferably cookies or pizza, and keep watch from a safe distance. This bait may lure the teens out of concealment. Then you can confront them, and maybe even conduct a conversation, if you can overlook the resultant sighing and eye-rolling.

You might want to photograph this event. The IRS requires proof.

1 comment:

Julia Buckley said...

Oh, no, Steve--I think I have teenager-itis--and it's bad! I wish I had read your blog earlier. Now all of these habits seem pretty much ingrained. And what is it about the bad shoe smell? Even when they're new, they go down pretty quickly. :)